gougères vanilla sugar boozy mississippi bourbon mud pie linguine with clams


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archive for February 8th, 2013

celebration and remembrance

Friday, February 8th, 2013

Recipe: chinese eight treasure rice pudding

I really loved reading about your valentines. There were lots of husbands, some wives, partners, lots of moms, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, children, pets, friends. It’s incredibly gratifying to see all of this love and appreciation for the special people in our lives. So thank you for sharing with me and with everyone else. Now on to the winners! Jeremy picked our winners at random, but his method was a little more cerebral than Kaweah’s selection style. I’ll let him describe it for you:

Two winners were selected using the least significant digits of the coordinates of water discovered in the Antennae Galaxies (Brogan, Johnson, & Darling 2010). The water seems to mark the birthplace of massive clusters of new stars created by the collision of two galaxies. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, and our nearest large neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy, will likely experience a similar fate in several billion years.


the antennae galaxies (image by the hubble space telescope)



The winners are commenters #97 (Sheryl) and #335 (Megan F.)! Congratulations ladies! I’ll be in touch with you via email to get the shipping addresses of your intended recipients. And a huge thank you for all of your enthusiastic entries. I love you guys! Even if you didn’t win, I highly recommend these chocolate truffles – they are beyond exquisite.

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Sunday, February 10th is the new moon and the Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year. I can close my eyes and recall vividly the sounds, sights, feelings, and smells of the kitchen where my parents and grandmother sat together to make dumplings on Chinese New Year’s Eve. Other special dishes were cooking on the stove, plastering steam on the windows and filling the house with aromas of the feast to come. I especially enjoyed running around the next morning and wishing everyone gong xi fa tsai (wish happiness and make money) or just gong xi gong xi (congratulations). Very few of my friends celebrated or were aware of Chinese New Year and so in many ways, I felt it was my family’s personal holiday.

When I went away to college, I was surprised to see Chinese New Year is indeed a big deal to A LOT of people in Southern California as well as some of the student body at Caltech. In my junior year, I called Grandma and asked her how to make Chinese dumplings and potstickers. The new year was approaching and I was feeling a little homesick. I began to pay more attention to our family traditions (mostly food) and fed them to Jeremy and friends throughout the years.

My sister didn’t share my interest in the lunar new year traditions until she had her son. After he was born, Kris suddenly became quite proficient at spoken Mandarin, began to read a little Chinese, and spoke Chinese with my nephew. It delighted my parents, my aunts, my grandma, family friends… And it melted my heart every time he called me A-yi (auntie). Without fail, my workaholic sister would call me up on Chinese New Year’s Eve every year to consult on what she needed to purchase or prepare for dinner. Dumplings? Noodles? How about a stir-fry? Don’t forget something sweet for the next morning. You see, you don’t eat just any Chinese food for Chinese New Year because everything has meaning for luck, prosperity, a promotion, good health, happiness, abundance, family, wealth.

The last time I saw Kris was over Chinese New Year. I had guilted her into flying out to California to meet me at Grandma’s place for a quick weekend trip. She was pregnant with her little girl and I almost felt bad about making her travel, but I knew the chances of seeing her and Grandma together decreased with every day she became more pregnant. Grandma made us sweet soup, took us to a New Year’s party (it’s not what you think – everyone there was Chinese, over 70, hard of hearing, and tone-deaf, but it was very entertaining), ordered our favorite dishes, and laughed at our dumb jokes.

I look back on that Chinese New Year with deep longing because both my sister and grandma have since passed on.

Chinese New Year is a time of celebration, but it is also a time of remembrance. I was only familiar with the celebratory side of things as a child. Now, I understand that we honor our ancestors and loved ones who are no longer with us and we embrace the loved ones we still have. For all of the rushing around to gather ingredients and make the right dishes to ensure good things in the new year, there can be a pang of sadness, sometimes a flood of unexpected tears, and a quiet heartache. Sure, we focus on the foods during this holiday, but really – the food is about family. Chinese New Year is all about family.

And food.

Food, family – they are inextricable.

A popular traditional dessert served at Chinese New Year dinners or other special occasions is Chinese eight treasure rice pudding. Now before you get excited about rice pudding, it’s not THAT kind of rice pudding. It’s a combination of sweet rice, also called sticky rice or glutinous rice (it contains no gluten), sweet red bean paste, dried fruits, and a sweet syrup. And there should be eight kinds of fruit because eight is a lucky number. You don’t HAVE to have eight, but if you choose to make a lucky dessert versus regular dessert, why not go for the lucky dessert?


sticky rice, sweet red bean paste, sugar, cornstarch, shortening or lard, lemon juice, dried or candied fruits

glutinous, sticky, or sweet rice – (glutinous rice has no gluten)

mango, dates, lotus seeds, maraschino cherries, goosberries, buddha’s hand citron, kumquats, apricots



Typical fruits include dried dates, candied cherries, lotus seeds, dried raisins… but you just use what you like or what you have available. I went to the big Asian market to hunt down candied lotus seeds, candied gooseberries, and candied kumquats. The rest of the items I got at the western supermarket or had made (like the candied Buddha’s hand citron). You can also use candied ginger, dried papaya, dried pineapple, winter melon candy (it’s a Chinese thing – it’s green and typically comes in strips), candied orange peel, dried cranberries, raisins. Endless possibilities.

slice up the fruits

arrange the fruit in a nice pattern



**Jump for more butter**